The big story of the 2019 Washtenaw May Count is YOU, the volunteers. This year we turned out an absolutely astounding number of volunteers, 105 of us, counting every township, every bird, every species, and posting it all to eBird. Organizing, recruiting, and helping you find your places to volunteer to bird the Count was a delight for me, with so many new volunteer individuals and groups joining in. Thank you to the new group of Feibai and Jack Yang, Judy Wade, and Maryse Brouwers who turned up our County’s only Ruddy Ducks and many warbler species at Gallup and Furstenberg Parks. Dominick Fenech, a new WAS member, happened to bird several underbirded areas in Superior TWP and was able to make a super contribution to that township’s tally. Ann Arbor had several new volunteers like Edgar Otto and Craig Perdue, birding Matthaei Botanical Gardens and South Pond. Keith Dickey, Ben Winger, Jason Contrucci, and Dan Ezekiel made first time contributions in Ann Arbor, as well. Lima and Freedom Townships had a new area leader, Jim Law, who recruited several great birders for a good count. Thanks to Mike Bowen for volunteering for the first time in Lima TWP. Thank you to Carol Watson, who came back as a volunteer with Dawn Holloway in Saline TWP. I can’t mention all 105 birders. However, I can’t stress enough how much your efforts mean to this count. Several years ago, State birders stopped compiling an annual Michigan bird migration count, but we kept counting in Washtenaw. With our data now all being shared with eBird, we’re making a significant citizen science contribution to understanding bird migration in our area.

Warblers were the next big story in this year’s Count. Probably because of the spring’s wet and cold weather, and north winds preventing northward migration, many of the early warblers were still around during the second Saturday of May. For example, we posted a record number of Palm Warblers, 187, usually only in low double digits by our count day, and more twice our usual number of Yellow-rumpeds, 442, also usually on the downswing by this time. Orange-crowned Warblers posted in double digits at 10, for the first time in recent memory. Other Warblers were here in record numbers, as well, on their way up North for breeding, though perhaps because of the cold, many were not singing. Good thing the experienced birders knew where to look in their traditional hotspots. Here are some examples of our astounding numbers of warbler species— Northern Parula, 278, up from 75 last year, Nashville Warbler, 214, doubled from last year, Northern Waterthrush, 33, usually scarce but found in in 12 of 20 townships this year, Black-and-White Warbler, 119, up from 43 last year, Black-throated Blue Warbler, 127, nearly quadrupled from last year, and Black-throated Green Warbler, 251, more than doubled from last year’s 108. Karen Markey posted our only Louisiana Waterthrush and Prothonotary Warblers at Hudson Mills, for Dexter Township. It was a good day for Warbler lovers, like me.

Shorebirds were a big non-story. The cold, wet conditions apparently sent them on their way, many missing Washtenaw altogether. Normally common on the second Saturday of May, Least Sandpipers were totally absent. Roger Wykes’ discovery of 6 Short-billed Dowitchers on Arkona Rd. , was the single unusual shorebird species for the count. However, though they’re wading birds, not shorebirds, a record 2 American Bitterns were found by Dave Borneman and Linda Ar’s crew in Sharon and by Silas Bialecki and Jeremy Siegrist, in Manchester. My husband, Scott, and I found a Least Bittern in Lodi, near where one was found last year.

The last fact I’ll mention is our Scarlet Tanager total, 71, substantially below our six-year average of 87, but up from last year’s low of 63. We’ll have to see what the long-term trends show for my favorite bird. Check our tallies for details on other bird species.

We are looking for area leaders in Dexter, Webster, and Northfield Township, and AnnArbor, for 2020. I’m hopeful the other area leaders will continue to participate! The date will be May 9th, the second Saturday of the month. Please message me if you are interested in one of these positions. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Now that we use eBird, the Area Leader position is mostly about recruiting and organizing volunteers, and less about crunching numbers, and doesn’t take an inordinate amount of time. My heartiest hanks go out to the area leaders, Jim Law, Greg Jacks, Dave Borneman and Linda Ar, the Bialeckis, Juliet Berger, Tim Gacioch, Dan Thiry and Susan Falcone, Mike Sefton, Ben Hack, and Roger Wykes. Without all your help, this count would be impossible to conduct. Thanks to the many, many returning volunteers, one and all, and all the new volunteers, who helped so much. Kudos to David Amamoto for continuing to help with the computer side of this work in progress, especially for his patience with me. And, undying love to my husband who spends the best day of the year with me, birding every single minute.

Check for details in the tally spreadsheet, published in the July/August edition of the WAS Newsletter, and posted here. I’m already looking forward to the 2020 May Count and I’m counting on all of you to be there!!!

As always, I am for the birds,
Juliet Berger, May Count Compiler and President, Washtenaw Audubon Society

Link to May Count Results





Washtenaw Audubon is thrilled to announce that the Ann Arbor City Council has heard your voices, and voted unanimously to evaluate the chimney at 415 W. Washington for retention, even while other structures at the site are demolished. IF the chimney can be salvaged, and IF the funds can be raised to do necessary repairs, our beloved swifts will be safe in their historic roost. There are plenty of hurdles ahead, but having the city's cooperation is huge. A well-timed thank you can do wonders to keep the good will flowing....please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to thank them. The meeting lasted into the early morning hours with more complicated agenda items, and they still stuck it out to vote on the Chimney Swift legislation. 

Here are some relevant links for your perusal:

Again, thank you to our concerned community for responding on behalf of the swifts! Never doubt that you can change the just did!

A September 13 article on MLIVE discussed the potential demolition of the chimney swift roost at 415 W. Washington Street, across from the Ann Arbor YMCA. Washtenaw Audubon intends to try to save the chimney from demolition to protect the roosting Chimney Swifts at this site. A resolution is being prepared that would require consideration of the chimney swift issue in all development proposals; council members from all wards will vote on whether to pass this resolution, which will be an essential first step in speaking out for the swifts.

by Glenn Belyea

LaRue “Tex” Wells of Ann Arbor, dean of Michigan birders and a Washtenaw Audubon member since 1973, passed away on August 16, 2018, just a few days shy of his 97th birthday. Tex, as he was always known in Michigan, was born in Rockport, Texas, but soon moved to Port Arthur, Texas where his father was a tugboat captain. After graduating from high school, he took flying lessons and obtained his pilot’s license. In July of 1942 he enlisted in the Army as an Aviation Cadet. Tex was sent to England as a C-47 (the military version of the Douglas DC-3 passenger plane) pilot where he transported troops and supplies into Europe and returned wounded soldiers to England.

Our May Count 2018 results are finally in (download a PDF of results with link below), and thanks to so many volunteers, about 70 of us strong, we made a great showing, under adverse conditions. 176 species were observed by birders in Washtenaw County's 20 Townships, just slightly above our 5-year average of 175.

Much like I did last year, I’d like to start off this year’s CBC report with an administrative note. As we were gathering for the potluck-tally at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Mike Kielb pointed out that this year’s count really should be noted as Ann Arbor’s 72nd edition of the CBC, not the 71st. This due to the somewhat obscure 1947 edition, which was listed as count 1b in the booklet “Fifty Years & Counting,” written in early 1997 by Rob and Nancy French and Mike Kielb. Doing the math, Mike is absolutely correct: the 2017 Ann Arbor CBC was, in fact, the 72nd time the event was run! Amazing stuff, and as good an indication as any to show what a committed birding community the Ann Arbor area has—here’s to 72 more!

The 2017 Washtenaw County May Count is finally a wrap! Our total of 171 bird species observed stands respectable among the totals of years past, with 132 expected species and 39 unusual species for the area. Last year we observed 176 species. This year we had dozens of volunteers fan out throughout the county, searching for birds, and recording everything in eBird, a citizen science project, though Cornell University. Now, instead of our results being buried in the obscure scientific journal, Michigan Birds and Natural History, to be published several years after the fact, scientists have access to our data in real time. Was it a light migration in mid-May for common Warbler species? Yes, it was, as we can see from our County Results. If I am a scientist studying trends from this year’s migration, I have the Washtenaw County data at my fingertips, right in eBird. For the complete count of species by Townships, click here.

During the potluck-tally gathering at the closing of this year’s Ann Arbor Christmas Bird Count, we discussed if the 2016 edition was the tenth anniversary of my role as count compiler. Neither the previous compiler, Nancy French, nor I was sure when the baton was passed from her to me, but after reviewing my CBC records, I found that 2007 was my inaugural year as compiler, which means that this year, 2016, was, indeed, my tenth year in charge of the Ann Arbor CBC—how time flies!

Saturday, May 14, the second Saturday of the month, dawned cold and wet. There were freezing conditions forecast, with gale force winds, and it was nearly so at 5 a.m. when my husband, Scott, and I set out from home to begin our Spring Migration count in Lodi Township. All over the county, birders were up early - obscenely early - to count birds. 91 birders, to be exact, 20 more than last year. All pitched in for a massive volunteer effort to count all the birds, all the species in our county.

Our hardy group of nine Washtenaw Audubon birders braved a 25-degree windchill and heavy-at-times snow showers in search of spring migrants in the Arb. We lingered for a long time where ground litter obscured a Fox sparrow and Winter wren. Suddenly the Fox sparrow perched in the open where everyone had long and close looks; a Hermit thrush perched even closer displaying his profile and straight on. We met Andrew Pawluk at the boardwalk who put us onto a Winter wren.